In Woerden I am reading aloud short stories for eighty women in a small room – I’m the only man. I’ve been invited by the Woerden branch of the Dutch Association of Housewives, which has been in existence for eighty-five years. I’m well-prepared, I start with a story about a young man who is lying in his antique boat in a harbour that is designed for this type of boat. In a similar craft alongside is a female neighbour – they look at each other through the portholes. Her husband notices this, his jealousy is not destructive, in such a case he exerts himself a little more in matters of the heart. Not in vain – he regains pride of place. He cannot relax, however, for the neighbour is still there. But precisely this neighbour is content, for he is fond of women who are faithful. The housewives also approve, for all eighty of them clap their hands.
In the interval it would appear that I have been mistaken – only seven-nine have done the clapping. The one exception comes up to me in the interval and asks if I can’t pep things up a bit. After the interval, I have a story about a religious community in the Nevada desert. A strictly observant Buddhist couple live there in a plain tipi. One evening a tarantula enters the tent, the size of a hefty male fist. The woman is paralysed with fright, she mouths to her husband: ‘Kill it!’ He does not do so, she knows as well as he does that the whole of creation is sacred, that the taking of a life is the worst possible sin. The following day, she annuls their marriage. Now all the housewives clap. I can hear it – this time it really is all eighty of them.